Haitian PM installs transition council to prepare for long-awaited elections

FILE PHOTO: Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry addresses the media after becoming also the country's interior minister, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti November 14, 2022. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Monday formally installed a transition council whose job will be to prepare for long-overdue elections in the Caribbean country, amid a humanitarian crisis driven by violence from armed gangs.

Haiti, which has been without any elected representatives since early January, last held a presidential vote in 2016.

"This is the beginning of the end of dysfunction in our democratic institutions," Henry said in a speech, adding that the High Transition Council (HCT) unanimously backed his request for an international force to help police restore order.

Henry took power in July 2021 days after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. He has pledged to leave office by Feb. 7, 2024, after postponing elections indefinitely in the wake of a devastating earthquake that affected the Southern Peninsula, along with gang violence.

The transition council, composed of three members representing Haiti's political, business and civil sectors, is expected to develop an ambitious road map for the next elections and choose members of a provisional electoral council as well as a committee to revise the country's constitution.

Its members are: Mirlande Manigat, a former presidential candidate; Laurent Saint-Cyr, president of Haiti's Chamber of Commerce; and Pastor Calixte Fleuridor, from the country's Protestant Federation.

Manigat, a lawyer who ran for the presidency in 2010 and is the widow of former President Leslie Manigat, asked international allies to remember their commitment "to help law enforcement in the fight against social malevolence."

The installment comes ahead of a visit from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, who is scheduled to arrive in Haiti on Wednesday.

Hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands displaced amid bloody turf battles between gangs who have expanded their territory in Haiti since Moise's assassination.

Henry requested the help of an "international force" in October, but the request is still being discussed at the United Nations, where no country has offered to lead such a force.

(Reporting by Harold Isaac in Port-au-Prince and Sarah Morland in Mexico City; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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